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I don't have any experience with GIS and mapping (other than drawing polygons in Google Earth). I need to create custom territory boundaries on a map, with county lines and street/highways as boundaries. These territories that I want to create will be next to each other, so I want to prevent empty spaces between them also.

Are there free tools that will allow me to do this? I attempted to do this using Google Earth's polygon tool, but tracing the county lines along with major highways over a large area is a massive task, and the result is not clean (i.e. my traces don't "snap" to the streets perfectly).

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3 Answers

If Lewis' answer is a bit brusk - here's what he meant: QGIS is a free GIS package it's available here - http://www.qgis.org/ Tiger Census boundaries are here: http://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/data/tiger.html

Depending on the accuracy of what you're up to I'd suggest using the Cartographic Boundary files product in the first instance as this has the County Boundaries in it.

The other nice point about QGIS is plug-ins that are available. I'd suggest getting the OpenLayers plug-in installed as this allows you to use Google Map / Open Street map layers as a back drop (useful for checking where you want the boundaries to go!).

Tiger Street Lines can be used for the bits of the regions where you want to depart from the country boundary.

Finally, what your doing is called digitization - here's a very nice tutorial using QGIS:

http://qgis.spatialthoughts.com/2011/12/digitizing-in-qgis.html

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OpenSteetMap. , either draw it and share your edits if they are of public interest or download the data and edit it in a sig like Qgis which has a snapping tool that works. Pay attention to the license.

For the first case, in OpenStreetMap you don't really need to draw new boundaries if the highways already exists, you add properties to them defining them as boundaries of something.
Check here: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:boundary%3Dadministrative
and here: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Relation:boundary

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Polygonize Tiger Census street and county data, close polygons where needed, select polygons of interest, run sql query on data table selecting selected features and extract and save selected rows as a layer file. Name polygons layers and remerge to a database, should make a field in table for the names and obtain from the layer file. After merge classify by named feature. Would need to play around with the processing and process flows to get an ideal result. Use QGIS.

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